Convoy Leaders’ Emails Reveal Planning Document That Outlines Early Plans to Illegally ‘Occupy’ Ottawa
Newly surfaced document raises questions about what organizers were planning and what Ottawa Police knew before the convoy arrived
Nearly a week before trucks began an illegal occupation of Canada’s capital, top leaders of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” circulated a document detailing plans on how to “occupy” downtown Ottawa – including one plan they acknowledged “breaks the law.”
The planning document, which describes three potential plans for occupying Ottawa, provides new insights into the goals of top convoy organizers, a number of whom have since been charged with criminal offences and now sit in prison.
It also raises questions about the reliability of early statements made by Ottawa Police suggesting convoy organizers had given them assurances that the convoy only planned to stay in Ottawa for “three days.”
The document is contained in a trove of emails allegedly sourced from an email account used by Chris Garrah, a top convoy organizer. The emails, which deal with planning and logistics for the occupation of Ottawa and include communications with Ottawa Police, were released by the public interest transparency group DDoSecrets Collective and independently reviewed by PressProgress.
Garrah is listed as one of the directors of “Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms,” the non-profit organization officially established by the convoy to collect donation money. His home in Mallorytown, Ontario is listed as the convoy’s registered legal address.
Last month, the Province of Ontario obtained a court order freezing a fundraising campaign run by Garrah through the right-wing crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, though Garrah has not been arrested or charged with any offence.
Garrah has also acted as a spokesperson for the convoy, notably making appearances on Fox News.
In a statement to PressProgress, Garrah suggested he had no knowledge of the planning document, which was attached to an email apparently sent to him on January 24, 2022.
“Don’t know about anything you are talking about,” Garrah told PressProgress. “I don’t know anything about documents or letters.”
When asked to clarify why he previously appeared to confirm the authenticity of his emails posted online to an American news outlet, the Freedom Convoy leader demanded that PressProgress immediately “stop all communications” with him.
The Daily Dot told PressProgress Garrah confirmed the authenticity of his emails in an exchange with them on February 22. They stood firmly behind their reporting.
UPDATE: Chris Garrah, founder of the ‘Adopt a Trucker’ fundraiser whose emails were hacked & leaked, gave me the following statement:
‘Not much of an email person or computer person but I’ve been told all my accounts and all that stuff has been hacked…’https://t.co/6cwA4U9eqQ pic.twitter.com/VEEwfx1Udg
— Mikael Thalen (@MikaelThalen) February 22, 2022
One thing found in Garrah’s inbox, which was first flagged by a researcher at Bellingcat, was a document titled: “Convoy plans and information.”
The document was apparently forwarded to Garrah on January 24, 2022 from Adam Arden, a top convoy organizer who had helped secure land and supplies for convoy members at a staging area in Arnprior, Ontario, about 45 minutes outside Ottawa.
The document does not include the name of an author in the body of its text, however, metadata attached to the Microsoft Word document reviewed by PressProgress identifies Arden as the author of the file.
Arden, who has publicly posted appeals seeking land and resources in support of the convoy, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress.
On January 25, Garrah sent Ottawa Police an email containing an Excel spreadsheet listing the names and contact information for 16 top convoy organizers – Garrah informed police that Arden was the convoy “captain” in charge of “land logistics.”
The emails show Arden also circulated the planning document to his boss, Mike Dorion, whom Garrah identified to police as the “captain” responsible for “construction set-up,” as well as to Arden’s father-in-law, Jeff Desarmia.
“My involvement was to connect the Arnprior Airport member with Adam (my son-in-law) to have the trucks park overnight on their property,” Desarmia told PressProgress. Desarmia said that he previously worked two decades providing “frontline security” for the Prime Minister and Governor General.
Desarmia would not respond to questions about the planning document.
The planning document makes clear its author had detailed knowledge of discussions with local authorities about land usage. It notes the convoy was trying to acquire “farmland” and had looked into securing staging areas on “City of Ottawa properties,” “NCC lands” and the “Canadian Tire Centre” – home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
“Remember first thing is to get everyone into Ottawa and settled and then we will distribute the trucks where they will be most effective,” the document states.
The document presents three potential plans on how to “occupy parliament.”
One scenario, labeled “Plan A,” proposes “the first 500 trucks will roll to parliament after that it will be completely blocked.” It goes on to suggest the “remaining trucks will then be sent to multiple areas such as farm land, public parking lots, Wal-Marts.”
The document also highlights that convoy organizers were very concerned about “visibility” but also nervous about their “image.”
“Our trucks are intended to be seen from the highway and we schedule locations every day with bodies trucks (sic) and four-wheelers at various locations,” the document states. It suggests this plan would be “medium visibility but law-abiding.”
Plan B raised the possibility of parking trucks along the side of Ottawa’s Queensway and a provincial highway linking Ottawa and Toronto, then shuttling people to Parliament Hill, an idea described as “highest visibility” but one that would raise an obvious “safety concern.”
“We still occupy parliament but park our trucks safely on the highways 416 and 417 and we pick everyone up leaving space for multiple vehicles between trucks in case of emergency,” the plan explains.
The document even suggests a contingency plan in case of snowy weather: “We will have a plan in place that if we get a significant snowfall that we allow the snowplows to do their job, hopefully working together with the City of Ottawa.”
Plan C, on the other hand, puts forward a plan that would break the law.
“We occupy anywhere and everywhere we can possibly go, such as: Roadways, highways, Parliament, public properties and NCC parking lots,” the plan states.
The document said this would give the convoy “high visibility” but acknowledges this idea “breaks the law and risk(s) our image.”
Neither Garrah nor Arden responded to questions from PressProgress about whether they adopted these plans, though the convoy’s behaviour echoed elements of the descriptions of Plan A and Plan C.
The document specifically indicates its author was personally involved in negotiations with Ottawa Police, Ontario Provincial Police, the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa on behalf of the convoy.
“OPS, OPP, NCC and the City of Ottawa will be meeting tomorrow morning to discuss our arrival,” the document states. “I have told them to work with us will be easier than against us, let’s hope they change their minds.”
Other emails indicate Garrah and convoy leader Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer, were the two main points of contact in communications between the convoy and Ottawa Police.
One email dated January 27, sent by Ottawa Police, contains a PDF attachment featuring “maps” of “staging areas” apparently negotiated between convoy leaders and police.
The maps police shared with Garrah and Bulford offer the convoy paths from area highways through residential neighbourhoods to staging areas in Ottawa.
Instructions written on the maps suggest police provided the convoy with staging areas in exchange for guarantees that a number of “emergency routes” would be left open.
The maps designate different staging areas for different types of vehicles. For example, vehicles with no trailers or open and empty trailers were told to line up on the Ottawa River Parkway while “trucks with boxed trailers” were told they could line Kent Street and Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill.
Kent Street, which cuts through residential neighbourhoods, was among the most heavily occupied areas in downtown Ottawa. Trucks blocked all lanes of traffic for a dozen blocks down Kent, offering no space for emergency vehicles or local traffic.
Occupiers were documented illegally camping in the middle of the police designated staging area for weeks. Photos showed occupiers built temporary structures, stockpiled wood for open fires, held pig roasts and consumed alcohol next to residential homes.
Ottawa Police would later require reinforcements from across Canada in order to clear thousands of entrenched occupiers from the staging area police set aside for the convoy on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill.
In response to questions about maps contained in the January 27 email sent from police to Garrah, the Ottawa Police Service told PressProgress it was unable to comment.
“A review of the Ottawa Police response to the unlawful demonstration is underway and the Ottawa Police Service will not comment further on logistics at this time.”
Read the document “Convoy plans and information”:
Our journalism is powered by readers like you.
We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.
Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.